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Rhode Island Wills Laws

Wills are legally binding documents that allow the testator (the person whose estate is being handled) to designate how he or she would like their possessions divided after their death. Statutes determine what constitutes a valid will, how the will must be officially witnessed, and so forth.

Some states, for example, do not allow handwritten or oral wills but a few states are more flexible in this regard. When someone dies without a valid will, the state decides how the testator's belongings are divided in a process called "probate." It can be a lengthy and frustrating experience, particularly for grieving friends and family members, which is why having a will is so important.

Wills Law in Rhode Island: Overview

For the most part, Rhode Island statutes governing the drafting and enforcement of wills are very similar to those in other states. The testator must be 18 or older, of sound mind, and must sign the will in the presence of at least two witnesses. But one unique aspect of Rhode Island will law is that oral (nuncupative) and handwritten (holographic) wills are only recognized by those in active military duty or mariners at sea.

Additional details of Rhode Island laws concerning wills are listed below. See FindLaw's Making a Will section for additional articles, including What is a Valid Will? and What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

Code Section 33-5-2, et seq.
Age of Testator 18 years or older and of sane mind
Number of Witnesses Must be signed or acknowledged by testator in front of two or more witnesses present at same time who must attest and subscribe will in presence of testator.
Nuncupative (Oral Wills) Not recognized except any soldier or airman in actual military service or any mariner or seaman at sea can dispose of his personal estate as he might have done under common law.
Holographic Wills Not recognized except any soldier or airman in actual military service or any mariner or seaman at sea can dispose of his personal estate as he might have done under common law.

Note: State laws may change at any time through the enactment of newly signed legislation or other means, such as higher court decisions. While we strive to ensure the accuracy of these pages, you also may want to contact a Rhode Island estate planning attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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